Episode 19 // Commitment, Vision,Trust: Jack Tackle (Part 2)

Narrative

Many years ago, I saw Jack Tackle give a slideshow in Anchorage.  I was in my early to mid-twenties at the time, and mountain climbing was the only thing that mattered. That evening, I listened intently as Jack described icefaces, corniced ridges, and run-out pitches that had long captured my imagination.

But I was also impressed by the life-wisdom Jack imparted.  His laid back style, coupled with a philosophy about the importance of vision, commitment and trust, resonated in a way that made sense to me.  I remember walking away that night feeling inspired, and ready to apply some of Jack’s hard-earned wisdom into my own climbs.  

But it’s funny how life works.  Shortly after the slideshow, I sustained an injury climbing, that effectively ended my career, and irrevocably changed my life forever.  Although I went on to make a new path in art and music, I can say without a doubt, that my life was never the same without climbing.

Jack too, experienced life-altering injuries that could have ended his climbing career.  In 2000, while guiding in South America, he contracted Guillain-Barre, a rare and sometimes fatal disorder in which your body’s immune system attacks the nerves.  Although Jack eventually regained his strength, the disease created lasting effects, some of which still linger today.

There was also the accident on Mt. Augusta in the Wrangell-Saint Elias, where jack was struck by a falling rock.  The impact broke his neck, leaving him paralyzed on the face, and stranded fifty miles from the nearest road.  The ensuing high-stakes rescue would become the stuff of legends in the mountaineering world, but for Jack, it was an opportunity to move forward in life, with a new perspective.

Fifteen years later, and despite some limitations from his injuries, Jack is still climbing at a high level around the world.  Over the years, I’ve watched his career from afar, and often wondered how his brush with Guillain-Barre and the accident on Augusta affected him.  

That’s why I felt fortunate to sit down and have a face-to-face conversation with Jack this last fall.  We talked at length about his climbing career in Alaska, the Himalaya and elsewhere.  But we also talked about his life outside the mountains, and how he’s managed to navigate thru challenging injuries and situations.  Turns out, if it weren’t for his friends, family and partnerships in climbing, he wouldn’t be where he is today.


Music

• Space Song / Evan & Molly / Evan & Molly (2012)
• Augusta / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Isis / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• The Cave / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Till You Came Along / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2014)
• Lexington / Evan Phillips / Goodnight My Dearest Stranger  (2012)
• Stormy / Easton Stagger Phillips / One For The Ditch (2008)
• Traveler / Evan Phillips / Lonely Mountain (2017)

Links

Patreon
Evan Phillips
The Alaska Rock Gym

Episode 18 // Commitment, Vision, Trust: Jack Tackle (Part 1)

Narrative

On episode 18, we’ll delve into the first of a two-part series with the venerable North American alpinist, Jack Tackle.  With his unmistakable baritone and classic unassuming style, Jack is the epitome of a true Alaskan “hardman”.  His gutsy first ascents up climbs like the Isis Face on Denali, the Diamond Arete on Mount Hunter, and the Elevator Shaft on Mount Johnson, have cemented his place in the storied history of Alaskan alpinism.

Recently, I got to sit down with Jack at his Castle Valley yurt, to talk about his forty-year career as an alpinist, and the lessons he’s learned along the way.  We discussed everything from his early forays in the woods, to his most intense experiences in the mountains and in life.  It was an enlightening and meaningful conversation that I felt privileged to be a part of.


Music

• Space Song / Evan & Molly / Evan & Molly (2012)
• Augusta / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Isis / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Northeast Face / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Ode To Easton / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• The Fox / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)
• The Cave / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Isis / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)

Links

Patreon
Evan Phillips
The Alaska Rock Gym
Denali – Isis Face (Alpinist Magazine)
Hunter – Diamond Arete (1985 AAJ)
Mount. Barrill – Cobra Pillar (Super Topo)
Mt. Johnson – Elevator Shaft (1996 AAJ)
Mt. Kennedy – North Face (1997 AAJ)

 

Episode 17 // A Higher Calling: Brad Meiklejohn


Narrative

It’s no accident that Brad Meiklejohn makes his home in a beautiful alpine valley outside of Anchorage, Alaska.  An avid pack rafter, climber and skier, Brad has spent much of his life exploring Alaska and other remote corners of the world.  But beyond his accomplishments in the outdoors, the mountains have always been a sacred place of reflection and self discovery, attributes that can certainly be traced to his deep family roots.

As a kid, Brad followed his grandmother and cousins on hiking and climbing adventures in The White Mountains of New Hampshire.  It was during these formative years that Brad would lay the foundation for his future outdoor ambitions.  But more than anything, his family instilled in him a deep loyalty to each other, as well as a sense of duty to protect the natural world they loved.  

This way of life was a natural progression for Brad, first as an avid climber, skier, and avalanche forecaster in Utah, then as Alaska Director of The Conservation Fund, a position he’s now held for over 20 years.  

But as much fulfillment as his career and personal adventures have brought, there’s been equal amounts of tragedy and sadness.  Over the course of Brad’s outdoor career, he’s lost over 30 friends in mountain-related deaths, a toll that has affected him profoundly.  But perhaps none of these deaths have affected him more than loss of Kyle Dempster, a young American alpinist with whom he shared a deep family and spiritual connection.

A few months ago, I drove out to Brad’s mountain-side home in the Chugach Mountains, hoping to gain insight into his wilderness adventures, his philosophies about conservation, as well as his meaningful relationship with Kyle.  


Music

• Space Song / Evan & Molly / Evan & Molly (2012)
• Augusta / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• By Your Side / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Avalanche / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Falling Down / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)
• Guess I Was Just Young / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)
• Letter That You Sent / Evan Phillips / Lonely Mountain (2017)
•By Your Side / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)

Links

Patreon
American Packrafting Association
The Conservation Fund – Alaska
Kyle Dempster
Evan Phillips
The Alaska Rock Gym


 

Episode 16 // Short Ropes: Committed On The Cassin

Links

Patreon
Evan Phillips
Andy Tholberg


Narrative

In June 2017, Aaron Kurland and Sam Novey planned to attempt the formidable and rarely-climbed Father and Sons wall on Denali, but when they found the face to be out of condition, they quickly turned their attention elsewhere.

The duo settled on the ultra-classic Cassin Ridge, a 9,000 foot spine of ice, snow and granite that snakes it’s way directly up the center of the south face. With a big storm scheduled to hit within the week, the duo planned a 3 day alpine-style ascent. Little did they know, they would soon be at the mercy of Denali’s weather, totally exposed, and fully committed on the Cassin.


Music

• Space Song / Evan & Molly / Evan & Molly (2012)
• Augusta / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Sexy Violence / Andy Tholberg / Unreleased (2017)
• Quad Laser / Andy Tholberg / Unreleased (2017)
• Sci Fly / Andy Tholberg / Unreleased (2017)
• Slow Motion Seq / Andy Tholberg / Unreleased(2017)
• Save My Soul / Andy Tholberg / Unreleased (2017)
• Can’t Bleed Thru A Microphone / Andy Tholberg / Unreleased (2017)
• Clad Frog / Andy Tholberg / Unreleased (2017)
• Posted Up / Andy Tholberg / Unreleased (2017)

 

Episode 13 // Mindful Mountaineer: Sam Johnson

On today’s episode, we’ll get to know Alaskan alpinist Sam Johnson.  Growing up in the foothills of the Chugach Mountains, Sam was exposed to the outdoors and mountain environments at a young age.  But it wasn’t until his teenage years that he discovered a newfound focus and direction thru climbing.

Since that time, Johnson has climbed extensively Alaska, Canada, Europe and even the far reaches of the Karakoram.  His quiet first ascents in Alaska’s Hayes Range, including a bold solo on the South East Face of Mount Hayes in 2013, highlight the spirit of adventure and self discovery that Sam seeks in climbing, and in life.

I recently sat down with Sam to talk about his trajectory as an alpinist, as well as the things that inspire him on a day to day basis.


Music

• Space Song / Evan & Molly / Evan & Molly (2012)
• Augusta / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Instrumental #1 / Evan Phillips / Songs From Lake Irene (2007)
• Hwy 395 / Easton Stagger Phillips / One For The Ditch (2008)
• Hell Of A Life / Easton Stagger Phillips / One For The Ditch (2008)
• Red Bandana / Easton Stagger Phillips / One For The Ditch (2008)
• Weight Of Changing Everything / Easton Stagger Phillips / Overseas (2014)
• Block Me Out / Easton Stagger Phillips / Overseas (2014)


Links

Patreon
Evan Phillips
Sam Johnson

 

Episode 12 // Short Ropes: Tobin’s Tales

On this episode of Short Ropes, we revisit my conversation with legendary Alaskan alpinist Carl Tobin (See episode 11).  Tobin’s climbs in Alaska’s remote Hayes Range raised the bar for hard alpine climbing in North America in the late 70’s and early 80’s. His climb up the Valdez test piece “Wowie Zowie” is an honest grade 6 ice climb, and was way ahead of it’s time when he made the first ascent in 1981 with the late Andy Embick. In this episode, Carl and I talk about the early days in Fairbanks, his relationship with the enigmatic alpinist Johnny Waterman as well as surviving a deadly avalanche in the Hayes Range in 1984.


Music

Space Song / Evan & Molly / Evan & Molly (2012)
Augusta / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
Fairbanks 75′ / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
Waterman / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
Avalanche / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
Ode To Easton / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)


Links

Patreon
Evan Phillips

Episode 11 // Mountain Memories: Carl Tobin

On today’s episode, we’ll get to know legendary Alaskan alpinist Carl Tobin. With an alpine career that has spanned over 40 years, Tobin continues to be a force in Alaska’s climbing community to this day.

In the late 70’s and early 80’s, Tobin and a small group of committed partners, pioneered a number of first ascents in Alaska’s Hayes Range including the east face of Hess Mountain, the northeast face of peak 10,910′ and the historic east ridge of Mount Deborah. These climbs set the standard for hard alpine climbing in Alaska, and in doing so, inspired generations of climbers that would follow.

This last spring, I sat down with Carl at his home in Anchorage, to talk about his early days in Fairbanks, and the whirlwind years in the mountains that followed. Carl seemed wistful that day, as he recounted his years spent climbing in Alaska, the Canadian Rockies and the Himalaya. But it wasn’t just the climbing that had him thinking. It was also the important relationships he’d forged along the way.


Music

Space Song / Evan & Molly / Evan & Molly (2012)
Augusta / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
Ode To Easton / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)


Links

Patreon
Evan Phillips

Episode 10 // Short Ropes: Mixed Master Vol. 1

I first came up with the idea to do The Firn Line in September 2016 – really not that long ago when you think about it.  I think the truth is that i’d always wanted to somehow combine my love for the mountains with my creative pursuits.  I just wasn’t sure how to do it.  I guess you could say I had a light bulb moment when I realized that I could combine my passion for storytelling, the mountains, and music all into one creative outlet.  Nine months and ten episodes in, I guess you could say I haven’t looked back.


My goal from the get-go was to create a podcast that I would have wanted to listen to back when climbing was the only thing that mattered to me.  I’ve thought back to all the endless nights sitting around campfires with friends, all the soggy drives to go ice climbing in Valdez, and all the storm days I whittled away in tents, counting the squares in the ripstop fabric.  Back then, I would have loved to have had a podcast like the firn line to listen to.

So as I look back today at the beginning stages of this podcast, or rather, this community, I wanted to share “mixtape” from The Firn Line episodes.  Some of these moments are light-hearted, while others are pretty heavy.  But like every Firn Line episode you hear, all the clips are genuine, in the moment, and real.


Music

• Space Song / Evan & Molly / Evan & Molly (2012)
• Augusta / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• The Fox / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)
• Silhouettes (w/ Courtney Marie Andrews) / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)
• Lonely Mountain (w/ Courtney Marie Andrews) / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)
• Unnamed / A. Tholberg / Unreleased (2016)
• Kenny Blackwell / Grand Couloir / Unreleased (2017)
• The Talkeetnas / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Falling Down / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)
• The Search / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Block Me Out / Easton Stagger Phillips / Overseas (2008)


Links

Patreon
Evan Phillips
Courtney Marie Andrews
Easton Stagger Phillips

 

Episode 09 // The Search: Graham Zimmerman

From a young age, Graham Zimmerman was inspired by the rugged peaks of the New Zealand alps, and later, the cascades of Washington and the pacific northwest.

During high school, Graham developed a keen interest in geology and it was then that he would experience his first involvement with mountaineering.  But it wasn’t until he returned to New Zealand for University that climbing became the driving force in his life.

Since that time, Zimmerman has honed his craft, and over the last decade he’s pioneered a myriad of exploratory routes in Alaska, Patagonia, and most recently, The Karakoram.  But for Graham, it’s not just about climbing.  Rather, it’s about living an all-encompassing lifestyle that combines exploration, creativity and challenging alpinism.  Getting to the top is one thing, but how you get there is everything.


Music

• Space Song / Evan & Molly / Evan & Molly (2012)
• Augusta / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• The Search / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Lost Again / Evan Phillips / Goodnight My Dearest Stranger (2012)
• Looper / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Red Light / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2014)
• Stay / Easton Stagger Phillips / Resolution Road (2014)
•The Search / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)


Links

Patreon
Evan Phillips
Graham Zimmerman

Episode 06 // Short Ropes: The Risk Of Commitment

Nestled in the heart of the Alaska Range, lies what many believe to be one of the most beautiful mountains in the world: Mount Huntington.  Rising on all sides to form a symmetrical pyramid of rock, snow and ice, Huntington has captured the imagination of bold and dedicated alpinists for decades.

When the French Ridge was first climbed in 1964, the mountaineering world took notice.  Then just a year later, when a young David Roberts and crew climbed the stunning west face, the mountaineering world was shocked. Both of these climbs raised the standard of what could be done in Alaska’s mountains, as well as setting a precedent for what future alpinists could expect on Huntington: remoteness, sustained, hard climbing, total commitment.

By 2016, most of Huntington’s major features had been climbed.  But one line, perhaps the most committing of them all, had yet to be ascended: The complete south ridge.  Rising nearly 7,000 feet, the south ridge follows a serpentine spine of four jagged sub-peaks, each connected by delicate gendarmes and stacked cornices.  Of the south ridge, David Roberts wrote, “It was not so much a ridge as five separate, serrated peaks, each increasingly higher.”  Although a few teams had ascended the upper south ridge of Huntington over the years, few parties had considered a go at the complete south ridge.  That is until this year.

Over a stretch of perfect weather in April 2017, American alpinists Jess Roskelly and Clint Helander made the first ascent of the complete south ridge in a single 5-day push.  The climb was everything the duo had anticipated and more, pushing- the limits of their endurance, and forcing them to commit psychologically in a way neither of them had experienced in the past.

A few days later after they got down from the climb, I sat down with Jess and Clint in Anchorage, to recount this once in a lifetime adventure.  The interview picks up on the second day of their trip, as they are crossing the east fork of the Tokositna Glacier, and starting the initial climbing up the first peak of the south ridge of Huntington.

Music

• Space Song / Evan & Molly / Evan & Molly (2012)
• Augusta / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Letter That You Sent / Evan Phillips / Lonely Mountain (2017)
• Trippy Instrumental / Andy Tholberg / Unreleased (2017)
• Lucillia / Easton Stagger Phillips / Resolution Road (2014)


Links

Patreon
Evan Phillips
Clint Helander
Jess Roskelley
Andy Tholberg

Episode 05 // Alaska Ranger: Mark Westman

Mark Westman is one of Alaska’s most prolific alpinists. On Denali alone, Westman has climbed a myriad of monumental routes including the Cassin Ridge, Isis Face, Denali Diamond and Slovak Direct.  He’s also climbed a number of important routes on other Alaska Range peaks including Mount Hunter, Mount Silverthrone and Mount Huntington.

On episode 05, Westman traces his roots in the outdoors, the important partnerships in his life and the challenges he’s faced in and out of the mountains.


Music

•  Space Song / Evan & Molly / Evan & Molly (2012)
•  Augusta / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
•  I Know You Hate Me (But You Love Me Too) / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2013)
•  Infinite Spur / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
•  Instrumental / Andy TholbergUnreleased (2017)
•  Looper / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
•  Celeno Peak / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
•  Winter 83′ / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)

•  Rely On Me / Evan Phillips / Lonely Mountain (2017)


Links

Patreon
Evan Phillips
Mark Westman

 

Episode 04 // Short Ropes: Chitistone Chuckles

In February, 2016 Dusty Eroh, Andrew Burr, Scott Adamson and Todd Tumolo rode, pushed and postholed their fatbikes up the Nizina River to the mythical frozen waterfalls of the Chitistone valley. Equal parts climbing and comedy, the trip was an authentic and memorable Alaskan adventure.

In Episode 04, Dusty tells the story first-hand, reflects on his time with Scott and discusses how he got his nickname, “Dirty D.”


Music

• Space Song / Evan & Molly / Evan & Molly (2012)
• Augusta / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Ambien / Andy Tholberg / Unreleased (2017)
• Beta Fish / Andy Tholberg / Unreleased (2017)
• Silky Smooth / Andy Tholberg / Unreleased (2017)
• Corn Flakes / Andy Tholberg / Unreleased (2017)
• Fleeting Fleets / Andy Tholberg / Unreleased (2017)
• Pumper / Andy Tholberg / Unreleased (2017)


Links

Patreon
Evan Phillips
Scott Adamson
Kyle Dempster
Andrew Burr Photography

 

Episode 03 // Life Revelations: Clint Helander

Finding truth in the Revelation Mountains

Clint Helander left home at 18 years old, hoping to escape a tense relationship with his mother, and to start finding his own way thru life.  When he came to Alaska a year later to attend college, a chance encounter with a new group of friends would expose Clint to the outdoors, and eventually lead him to the mythical Revelation Mountains.  Little did he know that along the way, he’d learn more about the importance of relationships with his friends, and ultimately his mother, than he ever could have imagined.


Music

• Space Song / Evan & Molly / Evan & Molly (2012)
• Augusta / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Stars / Giorgioff – Phillips / Unreleased (2014)
• Tackle / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Her Glorious Morning / Evan Phillips / Goodnight My Dearest Stranger (2012)
• Thru The Clouds / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Goodbye Blues / Evan Phillips /Goodnight My Dearest Stranger (2012)
• Lonely Mountain / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)


Links

Patreon
Evan Phillips
Clint Helander

Episode 01 // The Expression Of Climbing: Charlie Sassara

Growing up in the wilds of Alaska, Charlie Sassara always yearned for adventure. But it wasn’t until he found the “expression” of climbing that his life’s path changed forever. From early harrowing ascents on Mount Deborah and Denali in winter, to visionary climbs and bold rescues in the Wrangell-St. Elias, Charlie is a compelling character, and one of Alaska’s most enduring alpinists.


Music

• Space Song / Evan & Molly / Evan & Molly (2012)
• Augusta / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Learning To Climb / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Afterschool Special / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)
• Silhouettes / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)
• Learning To Climb / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2017)
• Lucillia / Evan Phillips / Lonely Mountain (2017)
• The Fox / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)


Links

Patreon
Evan Phillips